Picture this: 4 pm start to a day of test match cricket, no issues of conceding working hours to watch action at the stadiums, prime-time live streaming on TV, and yet the definitions of test cricket kept intact! As rosy as it sounds, it has been a long ‘work-in-progress’ to materialize this fantasy idea. Need is the mother of inventions and it would be fair to say that the process to make this a reality has largely been catalyzed by the declining interests in on-field following for the format at many conventional centers. The longer it takes to implement this, implies the lack of full-proof solutions that are available at the moment.
The most pertinent question surrounding day-night test cricket is the color of the ball. While night cricket (2nd innings for ODI matches & T20 matches) works on the white color of the ball for dark backgrounds, test cricket is played with the red ball as this format is contested predominantly in natural light and white uniforms. The minds behind finding the right color for the cricket ball have tried to coagulate the correlation of red color & human eye and a shade to contrast matches under artificial light together.
Another concern to this proposed ball is the sheen & life it has, for traditionally in test cricket a new ball is offered only after 80 overs, but in ODI cricket the white ball losses its shine pretty quickly and ICC rules make it mandatory to replace it after 34 overs. All cricket grounds don’t have lush outfields or tracks that don’t break, but a red ball remains red whereas the white ball turns brownish. The color of the ball has a lot of relevance for fielders at night, for sighting the shaded-white ball has been a problem at instances. Reverse swing is an important facet of fast bowling, which has its fundamentals on the state of the old-ball and the shine it can possess; which has lost its relevance in limited-overs cricket due to the mandatory ball change. This hybrid ball has a lot on its platter and probably a little more research and a lot of trial games could deliver the desired product that has a very few objections.
While the color of the ball is the biggest roadblock there are few other major hurdles along the way. A few experts have hinted at the dew-factor being a reasonable issue for day-night matches; early morning dew helps bowling sides, the late evening dew could make batting too easy (for flatter decks) or too difficult (for tracks with a green outlook to them) and could affect fielding. Test cricket provides a level-playing field but insufficient/non-uniform floodlight schemes could have a greater impact and diverge from the principles of test cricket.
Most of the issues hovering around have got to do technical circumstances. Floodlights, spectator arrangements, logistics and scheduling cannot be hurdles, when we have almost every ODI as a day-night match and hordes of T20 matches. Players won’t find this too different in terms of conditions, if anything visiting teams would enjoy playing in ambient temperatures in the sub-continent! Smaller problems like session timings/breaks, sight screens, umpire uniform colors, pitch maintenance could be addressed but the larger picture suggests that day-night test cricket should be the order of the next decade or so, at least for certain series.
Day-night test cricket as a concept has a few critics and the criticism in terms of breach of tradition is not completely invalid, but evolution is a constant process and this prospective change has many things that cater to the demands of modern times. Cricket associations across the board should take positive strides in catalyzing this process via aiding research and introduction in domestic cricket (like the way CSA has begun). It won’t make too much sense to hasten the implementation at the international level, for that would leave loosely wrapped loopholes to open up. What makes good sense is periodic and gradual development of momentum for this concept and answering all questions convincingly before the day we have first over bowled on an afternoon and the last at 10 pm local time!